By frustrating Ahithophel’s counsel, Hushai had accomplished the first mandate Israel’s king-in-exile had given him (15:34). To fulfill his royal mission, however, Hushai had to perform one more task—convey to David the intimate details of Absalom’s plan of action.
Without hesitation, Hushai sought out “Zadok and Abiathar” (2 Samuel 17:15), David’s priests, and told them what both he and “Ahithophel” had “advised Absalom and the elders of Israel to do.” Accompanying this information was an urgent plan of action.
Hushai’s strategy for David was based on the assumption that Absalom might yet be persuaded to follow Ahithophel’s plan. If an attack force was actually sent out against David at sunset, then the king and his followers would have to move from their present location immediately.
In order to convey this vital information to David without arousing suspicion, Zadok and Abiathar entrusted the message to “a servant girl” (2 Samuel 17:17), who was to pass the information outside the city to the priests’ sons “Jonathan and Ahimaaz.” Jonathan and Ahimaaz were hiding out “at En Rogel,” the site of a spring or well in the Kidron Valley less than a quarter of a mile from Jerusalem. Apparently the servant girl used the chore of fetching water as a pretext for going to meet the priests’ sons there.
Unfortunately, “a young man saw” (2 Samuel 17:18) Jonathan and Ahimaaz at En Rogel as they were receiving the information from the servant girl and immediately returned to Jerusalem “and told Absalom.” Jonathan and Ahimaaz realized that both their lives and their mission were now gravely threatened, and so “the two of them left quickly and went to the house of a man in Bahurim,” just over a mile south of Jerusalem. This unnamed citizen of Bahurim was a supporter of David’s cause and must have been at least moderately wealthy, for he had a house with a courtyard and a private well. Acting without hesitation to save Jonathan’s and Ahimaaz’s lives, he permitted them to hide in his well. Then, in order to conceal the existence of their well, his wife covered it and “scattered grain over it.”
Later that same day the woman was questioned about the whereabouts of “Ahimaaz and Jonathan.” Implicitly admitting she had encountered David’s allies, she nevertheless indicated that they were not on the premises. Instead, they had “crossed over the reservoir of the water,” suggesting the men had gone south.
Both the man and the woman deliberately misled the would-be assassins of Jonathan and Ahimaaz, yet the writer does not fault the couple for this action. As in previous instances where deceptions were employed to save innocent human life (1 Samuel 19:13–17; 20:6, 28–29), neither the letter nor spirit of the Torah were violated (1 Samuel 20:5). To the contrary, the writer implies that when confronted with an ethical dilemma, the couple chose the least undesirable alternative. As a result, David and his entire entourage escaped Absalom’s forces.